French Quarter residents frustrated over traffic proposal

Caresse Jackman talks about a heated meeting at a public forum on a traffic study affecting the French Quarter.

NEW ORLEANS -- Anger and frustration reached a peak Tuesday night inside St. Jude's Community Center in the French Quarter during a meeting on proposed traffic changes.

From business owners to long-time homeowners, members of the public heard and voiced their concerns about the city's proposed changes to French Quarter traffic.

"There no benefit to this meeting tonight," French Quarter resident Cassandra Sharpe said.

Other frustrated residents agreed.

" I didn't see anything real productive that was going on," Business owner and French Quarter resident Charles Schroeder said.

Public Works Director Mark Jernigan said the city plans on closing a section of Bourbon Street to traffic and turning it into a permanent pedestrian mall, complete with benches and planters.

"Limits to the study really focus on the French Quarter, primarily around Bourbon Street," Jernigan said. "The block on either side of Bourbon Street, and really from Bourbon Street, Canal to Dumaine and then the impacts across the board in the French Quarter."

Jernigan said funding from the plan comes from Mayor Mitch Landrieu's $40 million security plan in an effort to help prevent potential terror attacks and deadly shootings from taking place.

"Recent events with trucks driving into crowds, primarily in Europe and overseas sort of got us thinking we need to take a look at that, given everything that could potentially happen," Jernigan said.

Those in the meeting, however, worry these new plans cater towards tourists and not residents, and will destroy the history and landscape of the Quarter, causing a traffic headache.

"If there's not something in this plan that allows for residents and small businesses to get to their places of business during the normal business hours, we've got an issue," French Quarter resident Bob Sevcik said.

"I think the idea of cleaning up Bourbon Street is great,"  Schroeder said. "But I think the bigger issue is, let's fix crime. Let's have some more cops on the street. You know, if they put up benches and parks, it's an invitation for more people to spend their nights sleeping on Bourbon Street."

Leaders said they're taking note of everyone's concerns and plan on heading back to the drawing board.

"I'm really glad we got the feedback we got," Jernigan said. "This will help us put together some good recommendations for the traffic study."

For those in attendance, all they wanted is for their voices to be heard before any decision is set in stone.

"They should value people like me, and everybody else that tries to make this city work," Sharpe said. "And I don't think they are."

Jernigan said the next public meeting is to be determined. They plan on coming to a final decision some time in May. A full report will be on their website Wednesday morning at roadwork.nola.gov/bourbon.

© 2017 WWL-TV


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